i have adventures (sometimes)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Nessie Day!

Today was Nessie Day! Because there's not much else to do in Inverness, even if you are interested in castles and cathedrals. And also because Nessie's awesome.

But I'll come back to that.

Where I fhtagned last night.

As I'd woken up to find that one of my couch requests had been accepted, I set off in the morning to my host's house (I always feel like that makes me sound like a bacterium), and after waiting half an hour for a bus which didn't arrive, I decided to walk, since it didn't look too far on the map.

I know, I know. I never learn.

It turned out that it wasn't far - when you're not carrying a heavy backpack. As it was, it felt like an endless struggle through what I took to be the dodgy part of town, based on the council flats, overgrown lawns and industrial areas.

With relief, I finally dropped my bag outside the door and knocked. And then I phoned. And then I texted. And then I knocked again. And then I phoned again. Nothing. So I sat down to wait, alternately knocking and phoning, but to no avail. As this was Nessie Day and I was supposed to be meeting Henrik (my Norwegian friend from the hostel), I eventually gave up, and very grumpily lugged my bag to the bus stop, where at least I didn't have long to wait for the bus.

I got to the bus station hot, sore, and unhappy, and stood in a long queue to put my bag into luggage storage. Henrik found me there, and then went off to drink coffee (and perhaps write two dissertations, paint a wall and watch it dry, and grow a giant redwood from a seed). When the lady at the desk told me that it would be ₤5 to give them my backpack, even though it had been only ₤4 the previous day, everything seemed too much, and so I went to the bathroom and permitted myself a minute of self-pity, because sometimes you just have to cry in a bus station bathroom.

Self-pity over (and, more importantly, heavy backpack relinquished), Henrik and I went Nessie questing. We took a very pleasant stroll to the main road via the Ness Islands, and then held up our little sign to hitchhike to Loch Ness.*

Because what’s safer than hitchhiking? Hitchhiking with a stranger!

Despite having been assured by the guy who worked at the hostel that he had never ever had to wait longer than five minutes while hitchhiking in Scotland, no one seemed willing to pick up two increasingly bedraggled tourists, and so we spent 20 minutes standing in the rain, waving our sign and our thumbs hopefully at passing drivers until we were so wet that we were pretty sure no one would let us into their car anyway. At last, someone took pity on us, sighed when we said we wanted to go to Loch Ness ("It's 40km long. Anywhere in particular?"), and took us to Drumnadrochit, just a little way from Urquhart Castle, which claims to be world-famous, although neither of us had ever heard of it.

The next question, once we arrived at Drumnadrochit in the pouring rain and thanked our lift (mum and dad, read "bus driver"), was what to do then. At last, we decided it was worth spending money on a boat cruise, since we didn't particularly want to slide through a muddy forest to look at the loch from a bank, and we certainly didn't want to be ripped off to see the castle, since we both figure that once you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all.** So we shelled out for tickets for the boat ride instead, and then hid in a coffee shop to dry out for an hour. We chatted about York, and found that we’d both laughed at the weather information in the international students’ pre-arrival pack, him because it only gets to -8 in winter, and me because it only gets to 23 in summer. Oh, English weather. Bless.

The cruise was on a tiny little boat with only a few other people who'd braved the weather. The loch was beautiful in the fog - definitely epic enough to make it convincing that a surviving plesiosaur or two might frolic there, if only to mess with the minds of conspiracy theorists.

Mobbed by a gang of hungry ducks.

We're on a boat and it's going fast and...
I've got my nautical-themed pashmina afghan. (Only not really.)

What remains of Urquhart Castle. I feel like the Famous Five would have camped here.
But still not worth the entry fee, since it got blown up.

Smugglers and Nessie hang out here.

Water on a duck's back.

And obviously I had a long chat to Nessie about syntax, and, as expected, it really is base-generated. So, there we go. Decades of academic arguments put to rest. Thanks, Nessie!

Just waiting for that safe bus. Where I will wear my seat belt.

After being dropped back in town by a Scottish lady who nevertheless sounded like the inexplicable love-child of Julie Andrews and Stephen Fry, we took a wander around the town, up to the castle, which looked just like a castle, and across the river, where a strange man looked at us fiercely and told us to "remember about Jesus". After some consideration, we decided he must have meant that Jesus was the one making the bridge shake so violently, which really calls into question Jesus' architectural skills.

Well, that’s good to know.
REALLY TINY BUNNY! (In case you can’t tell from the picture, this is a really tiny bunny.)
We then went our separate ways, me to the bus station, and Henrik to his new hostel. I had to pick up my bag anyway, and I really didn't feel like spending the night with he-who-does-not-answer-the-phone (even though he eventually called back to say that he'd been there the whole time and I should have knocked), and I felt like I'd pretty much done Inverness anyway, so I put my Totally Spontaneous hat*** on again and asked for the cheapest ticket to Edinburgh this evening - which turned out to be more expensive than the ticket I'd non-spontaneously booked for tomorrow, but what the hell - and within half an hour I was on my way back to Edinburgh through the awe-inspiring Scottish countryside, keeping an eye out for Hogwarts all the while.

One day, my letter will come. I've only turned 11 twice over, right?

Made it to Edinburgh after several long waits while the driver tried to figure out how to get to Edinburgh despite the gale-force winds which made the major bridges off-limits to buses. How he solved this problem, I never found out, but we did at last make it to the city, where I invited myself to the lovely Cathleen’s lovely flat to drink lovely tea with her lovely friends. All in all, a lovely evening.

Except for the part where Cath and I, with increasingly hysterical laughter, had to pump up the air mattress, which, as it turns out, is quite a suggestive task, and much, much funnier after 3am.

* Unless my parents are reading this, in which case we caught a very safe bus owned by a respectable bus company and wore our seatbelts.
**The same is true of cathedrals. And every building built in ancient China.
***If you knit me one of these, I will love you forever. I'm also looking for studying gloves, adventuring socks, and a scarf which gives +6 stamina and +7 resistance to cold.


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